Beuys at the front

With its auctions of Modern Art, Contemporary Art and Photography, Lempertz achieved a very pleasing total turnover of 11 million euro. Lempertz celebrated two anniversaries this autumn: 30 years of Contemporary Art auctions and 30 years of Photography auctions and with this was the first German auction house to introduce these fields into Germany in 1989: a pioneering achievement ...

With a result of € 487,000, Yves Klein’s 35 x 25.3 x 2.7 cm picture “IKB 132”, one of his legendary, deep luminous ultramarine blue canvases, from 1957, was the top lot of the auction. A spectacular exhibition called “Proposte monocrome, epoca blu” held in January of the same year in the Milan Galleria Apollinaire was the initial spark for the unparalleled artistic career of Yves Klein. Here he first displayed a group of eleven monochrome picture panels - an extraordinary provocation for this time (lot 617, € 400/600,000).

As Joseph Beuys’ “Sonnenkreuz” was called for sale, a persistent bidding fight erupted pushing the bronze from € 180/200,00 up to € 397,000. One of Beuys’ earliest artistic works, “Sonnenkreuz” succeeded in creating a work of unparalleled expressiveness. Still under the stylistic influence of his teacher Ewald Mataré, it already illustrates however the artistically free, independent conception with which Beuys had already made a name for himself as an artist in these years (lot 611).

Gerhard Richter was present with a noteworthy offer with two “Abstract Bilder” from the year 1997. They have a multi-layered application of paint that creates a visual depth of space. The oil paint was alternately applied with a squeegee vertically and horizontally onto the smooth ground, resulting in multiple structural gradients, superimpositions and colour mixtures. Both pictures were acquired by a German collector for € 298,000 each (lots 641/642, each € 300,000). Coined by monochromy, the 1973 oil painting “Grau” was also sold to a German collector, this time for € 186,000 (lot 628, € 150/200,000).

Antony Gormley’s “Iron Baby”, an iron casting from 1990 (Ex. 2/10), far exceeded its estimate of € 120/180,000 to reach € 298,000. The iron baby is a 12 x 17 x 28 cm poignant tiny being in the midst of Gormley’s otherwise large-format sculptures. The cast-iron sculpture depicts a life-size, sleeping newborn, rolled up on its tummy, whose innocence and helplessness appeals to the protective instincts of the observer, yet the blackness and hardness of his material simultaneously causes irritation (lot 649). Incidentally, works by Antony Gormley are currently on display at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

Lempertz has once again proved itself to be an excellent auction location for paintings by Zdeněk Sýkora: our house has been selling works by this artist for top results for years. The artist was again represented by two of his characteristic line pictures from 1987 and 1990. The square formats numbers 45 and 69 were each estimated at € 150/200,000, with “Linie Nr. 69” selling for € 273,000, and “Linie Nr. 45” for € 223,000, both finding new homes in the Czech Republic (lots 631/632).

As in the Modern Art, the Contemporary Art auction also had great success with works from the Will Grohmann Collection: with this, the collection was completely sold (see also the Press Release for Modern Art). From Hans Hartung came “T 1955-23a” from 1955, a characteristic canvas strongly charged with black lines and full of energy. International telephone lines fought over the work which eventually sold to an English collection for € 236,000 (lot 601, € 100/150,000). The same bidder also acquired the oil and pastel “T 1950-60” from the year 1950 for € 112,000 (lot 603), whilst a pastel and charcoal on card piece shot up from € 7/9,000 to € 81,000 (lot 600).

The noteworthy large-format wall mosaic by Heinz Mack from the Kaufhof Collection was 387 x 788 cm large and made in 1995. The mosaic was based on the painting “Klang-Farben” from 1993 and was produced as a wall mosaic in Cologne in 1995 by the Italian mosaic layers Lino and Francesca Linossi. A German collector was the successful bidder for the almost 32 sqm mosaic for a price of € 248,000 (lot 627, € 150/250,000).

Carla Accardi’s “Biancobianco”, a white monochrome slashed work from 1965 climbed to € 124,000; the artist is one of the most important representatives of abstract art in Italy (lot 607, € 50/70,000). Gunter Brus also reached up high: “Die rote Tödin” was produced in 1981 in pastel and graphite on packing paper, and quickly went from € 30/40,000 to € 124,000 (lot 622). A subtle, square canvas by Jef Verheyen worked in 1975 sold for € 87,000 (lot 618, € 70/90,000), and Imi Knoebel was once again strongly represented with 14 works from between 1985 and 2016, the highest price of which was achieved by an untitled painting on aluminium with € 74,000 (lot 637, € 40/50,000).